SAN FRANCISCO—On Friday, July 10, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s top advisors announced that the state will release approximately 8,000 incarcerated inmates in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus inside prisons. Only criminals convicted of violent felonies and/or sex crimes are ineligible for release, and will remain in prison. Those who have a year or less to serve are considered eligible for release, as well as those who are in the “high-risk” group for coronavirus.

On July 9, the governor explained the reasoning for his decision during a press conference, saying that about 2,400 people in California’s prison system tested positive for the coronavirus. He explained that the first round of releases will free inmates who have 180 days or less remaining of their sentence. The next round of releases will include those who are aged 30 or older, and meet certain criteria for release. Inmates 29 years and younger will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

“Each and every one of these cases are sobering, challenging, and there’s a deep responsibility that comes with this job, but a sense of deep urgency as well to decompress the system in a judicious and thoughtful way,” the governor stated during the press conference.

“Over 3500 cohort was released going back to April, and we have thousands more that are in the queue to be released moving into the next weeks and months, all of them require specific strategies, individualized efforts and supports. That is what the entire probation parole office is all about,” he added.

Newsom’s corrections secretary, Ralph Diaz, clarified in a public statement that prison officials will “aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety.”